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“Hard work always beats natural talent”



“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do, because you’re the one that ultimately defines your success. Like I always say, ‘When you’re determined, no one can stop you.’”

This is the advice Torah Academy Girls High School matriculant Yakira Sacks gives to any student facing challenges.

When Sacks was younger, she had lots of obstacles. Her pace of reading, writing, and processing was slower than the average student. This meant she had to attend a remedial primary school.

“When it was time for my parents to choose a high school for me after finishing Grade 7 at Crossroads, they went to a meeting with the principal, teachers, and therapists,” said Sacks during her speech at Torah Academy’s 2021 matric farewell. “They all suggested that I had to go to a remedial high school because there was no way I would manage in a mainstream school. At one point, they even questioned if I was going to be able to do matric.”

Determined to send their daughter to a Jewish high school, Sacks’ parents met Morah Rebecca Sarchi, the principal of Torah Academy Girls High.

“My parents were so thrilled at how willing she was to help me navigate my high school career, they didn’t look any further, and enrolled me at Torah Academy, starting in 2017,” recalled Sacks about the moment that would shape the person she would become.

Five years later, Sacks has now completed matric, and says, “The year went well, besides general matric stress. I felt more in control last year as opposed to the previous year, because I didn’t do online school apart from a couple of weeks at the beginning and in the middle of the year. Most of the year was in person at school, baruch Hashem.”

Looking back on the impact of the pandemic on her situation, Sacks does find some positives, one of which is that she could communicate with her teachers on WhatsApp.

“When I did do school online, I found the Zoom recordings helpful because, if needed, I could go back to a topic to get a clearer understanding. However, while on Zoom, I did feel I needed to put in that extra effort, spending more time on tasks because of distractions at home and because I didn’t have that extra guidance from teachers that you have in person.”

Sacks remained on top of her work by, amongst other things, studying in advance, and starting projects and assignments early.

“Since I have been at Torah Academy, my confidence has grown in ways that are surprising even to me,” she said during her speech. “Giving speeches and being the centre of attention seem less intimidating to me now. I’m also able to answer questions more quickly than before.”

The teachers, Sarchi, and Sacks’ parents have all played a crucial role in making her the person she is today, and she believes her challenges have made her stronger, enabling her to deal with situations that she never thought possible.

“Overcoming obstacles isn’t easy but it’s all worth it in the end,” she said. “I’ve learnt that there’s more than one way of doing things, even if it may not be the most popular way or the way that everyone claims ‘works’.”

Sacks loves to help people. Hearing them say, “I understand now” or “This makes more sense now” makes her smile.

“That’s why I want to help kids who need that extra help,” she says. “I want to let them know that there’s nothing wrong with that because hard work always beats natural talent. My goal is to become that teacher who helps children realise that having challenges and overcoming them only makes you a stronger person.”

Sacks plans to take a gap year this year, using the time to do short courses on subjects she’s interested in such as child psychology because it will help her gain further insight into young minds.

“Hopefully, this will benefit me when I go into further studies,” she says. “I would also like to do further courses on computers as I’ve gained a lot of interest while taking CAT [Computer Applications Technology] as a subject in school. I also need to do my driver’s license, and I would like to have the opportunity to get some work experience with kids.”

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